Age 20 to 25 was a great time. The world was so easy and fun for most of it. At least, that’s how it seems in retrospect. For me 20 to 25 was just learning how to get your work done well. My biggest achievement was learning how to stay a high achiever in school while living this footloose and fancy-free lifestyle.
And then, suddenly, I was facing down a real life with a real job. I was caught between by working and paying off my loans. I was trying to figure out whether I should go to grad school and take out more student loans, and hoping my “adult instincts” would kick in at any time. or going to grad school and getting more loans, that I assume I will be able to deal with when my “adult instincts” kick in. (That’s a real thing right?) I am still hoping that one day I wake up and decide I want nice new things, and I am sick of eating cereal for dinner, and I want a reliable income so I can invest in…one of those investment things..shares…bonds..? I’ll figure it out.
If you can’t tell, that day has not yet come for me yet. I did what I had to. I like my second hand furniture, and my rented house that is conveniently equidistant from the bars and campus. Even though I have not fully learned how to “adult” yet, a lot has changed for me in the second half of my twenties. Whether or not you jumped on the adult train right away, or took a furlough like me, 25 to 30 still brings a lot of changes in who you are and how you behave. No matter where you are in these years, even if stay in school like I did. So much about you changes in a hurry. It’s been great—I know a lot more now than I did—but here’s what I’ve learned.
Health insurance is expensive, complicated, and necessary
Your parent’s insurance no longer covers you. Yikes! You have a few choices here: You get a real job with insurance, you go to grad school, you figure out Obamacare, or my favorite; you decide to just not get sick or hurt. This was my older brother’s plan. He has been wearing the same pair of glasses for three years and avoids anyone who sneezes for two weeks.
Actually it turns out everything is expensive
You find out that cell phone bills, car insurance, and medical bills (insured or not) are insanely expensive. Maybe in your early 20s you already paid all your rent and utilities. Good for you! But I think it was around 25 that I heard every single one of my friends say: “Is this how much car insurance costs?? Forget this, I’ll ride my bike!” Harsh reality time. Real adult bills are ridiculous. It changes your whole outlook on life.
You actually start subscribing to that whole moderation thing
Eating and drinking alcohol in excess is bad for you. I mean, you always knew that. But I remember the good old days when I seemed to live off beer, pizza, and cereal. And not only was I able to function, I managed to actually get stuff done! Not so anymore. You discover not just the real alcohol hangover, but the food hangover. You come-to the morning after a great night, like someone coming out of a ten year coma. The upside to this? You do spend way less on alcohol, except for special occasions. And you learn how to cook things with recipes more complicated than “pour cereal, add milk.”
You start becoming really punctual
You have to be on time for things. You have a job that matters, your parents have expectations of you, or your graduate classes have way fewer people in them. (We all creeped in to the 101 class with 300 people in it, 45 minutes after class started. Try this in a 500 level and be prepared for the disappointed stares of like 11 other people.) My first real adult job was a huge adjustment for me. The whole “people depending on me, actual responsibility” thing was a real wake-up call.
People take you seriously, and you do too
People start really having a “marriage and kids” calendar, and/or a “career goals” checklist. I really miss the years when everyone saw me as young and silly. Now, I’m a professional, and things like marriage and children aren’t such a ridiculous thought.
Your Facebook feed will have a lot of engagement photos
All the sudden everyone you know is getting married and having kids. Maybe you are too, but it’s a big shift, either way. When you used to scroll down your feed, it was all about last night’s big party or the upcoming football game. Now it’s some of that, and a whole lot of engagement and baby photos. Woah!
No one is accountable for what you do but you
This sounds like a bummer, but it’s actually a blessing. I have grown up a lot and accomplished a lot as a result of this. I will always look back fondly at the years where bosses called me“hon” and let it go that I started that small fire. But now, the only one in control of what I do is me.
Your long-term relationships are going to change, and that’s OK
Your longterm bestie of your early 20s might still be your ride-or-die. Or maybe you’re a little more distant. Maybe someone close to you isn’t as close anymore, or someone who was distant is suddenly your go-to. Relationships change, and that’s totally OK. You also make new friends from things you wouldn’t expect: jobs, jury duty, weddings. The real, deep, world changing connections you make are unbelievably strong and more than capable to standing up to jobs, bills, weddings, and babies. My advice: be kind if you sever ties, and be understanding if people grow distant, and work to maintain those great friends. It’s work. But it’s worth it.
Your standards are going up
Maybe slowly, and maybe like me, you are still happy in your rented house and wearing your thrift shop finds. But you’ll notice that there are some things you’re just not up for anymore. You might not want to crash on a floor or a couch when you can go back to your own house. Things cannot just be dirty all the time; I clean so much more than I ever thought I would. Some simple things are important and worth the investment and maintenance. I am not living anywhere without a decent heating and cooling system, a nice shower, and thick walls.
Things are only going to get better
You have changed a lot, and life seems to have been a lot harder in these years. Things matter more, actions have consequences, and no one is writing you free passes anymore. The thing about this it is though, its better. You know yourself and what you want. You learn the power of words like “no”.
Slowly but surely you begin to finesse your way into your adult life. Maybe you don’t wake up one day with an “ adult” instinct, but day by day you realize that you are an adult now, anyway.
So 25 to 30 year olds, I invite you to join me in embracing your partial adult self. Maybe you still don’t know how a mortgage works yet, but it seems a lot less ridiculous to have one. Being young and free was great, and I would never give those years back, but I also wouldn’t go back. I really love the woman I am becoming, and most days it is much easier to be her than it was when I was becoming her.
Kasey Merrick is at the university of Arizona, she works and goes to school full time. Her hobbies include controlling her smart mouth and playing with her amazing dog.
[Image via NBC]